DIY Shampoo Bars

I’ve raved about my newest obsession with making soap, yes? Of course I have, because I’m obsessed. And I got it in my head a couple of months ago that since I’m now capable of keeping my family (and extended family, and any friends who are interested) in soap, I’d like to know if there are other kinds of things I could make that will save me from buying plastic bottles of the stuff forevermore. First up: shampoo.

Cold-process shampoo has its lovers and its haters, and I suspect a lot of the love or hate is as much related to the quality of shower water used as it is to the composition of the soap. Here in Vancouver we have soft water, and my shampoo bar lathers beautifully. I’ve read that people who have hard water don’t so much love handmade shampoo bars, because they don’t lather well and often leave a residue.

I’ve used one of my shampoo bars for the last week, and I’m surprised by how much I love it. Loads of lather, no residue. It’s a little drying, but not terribly so, so I’m using the conditioner I still have around, and when that runs out I’ll try an apple cider vinegar rinse, which all the shampoo-bar fans rave about.

I started with these recipes as inspiration, and here’s the one I came up with as a result. If you’re into making soap, I urge you to try this out. Worst comes to worst, you hate using the bars as shampoo and use them as soap instead.

image of cold-process shampoo bars

Recipe for Cold Process Shampoo Bars (yields 3ish pounds)

  • Coconut oil – 30% (10.8 oz.)
  • Castor oil – 20% (7.2 oz.)
  • Olive oil – 20% (7.2 oz.)
  • Palm oil – 20% (7.2 oz.) (Note: I was sure to buy palm oil from a distributor I trust who promises it was ethically sourced. Moving forward, I’m going to avoid using it, because it’s pretty much a disaster.)
  • Jojoba oil – 10% (3.6 oz.)
  • Additive: 10ml tea tree oil, at trace (I’ll up this a little next time)
  • For this particular quantity of oils, with 4% superfatting (listed in ounces in parentheses above): 4.939 oz. lye and 11.88 oz. water (next time I may up to 5% superfatting, so it’s not as drying but not too oily.)
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Alicia Landi

I like using shampoo bars and I’ve seen others say they can be used as soap, as well. What exactly, then, is the difference between shampoo bars and soap? Different oils? Different amounts? I’m curious about the reasoning behind the recipes.


They’re the same just different ratios.

Amanda Siska

I’m so excited about your shampoo adventures! I’ve been using a shampoo bar for about a year, and I completely love it. Now I might have to try making my own!


Although using other vegetable oils seems like a practical solution, it would actually create similar – if not even larger – environmental and social problems. Therefore, the best solution is to ensure you buy products that contain sustainable palm oil. There is a misconception that these concerns can be addressed when companies simply stop using palm oil in their products. However, this is not as easy as it sounds for a number of reasons: Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. This would result in serious environmental damage, with the risk that more forests would need to be converted into agricultural land. In producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry. Replacing palm oil with other types of oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as food ingredient. Using other oils would not give the products the same texture and taste that palm oil offers. that was taken from an article here the cosmetic industry doesnt make a dent on the palm oil devastation even if it wasnt sustainably sourced. Dont boycott palm for soaps or health/cosmetics reasons. BOYCOTT FRACKING, educate yourselves and spread truth. Gasoline production is whats causing the most harm everywhere especially with palms…… Read more »

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